At long last, the BJP finally unveiled on 13th September, what was known all along, its Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections. Narendra Modi, the current BJP Chief Minister of Gujarat, who has never really hidden his PM ambitions has trumped over his rivals within the BJP and this would not have been possible without the crucial backing of its parent organization – the right wing, rabid Hindu nationalist and racist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
In a sense, this marks the political oblivion of the current BJP leadership, especially Lal Krishna Advani. Modi’s elevation earlier did generate some sort of an opposition within the BJP and Advani even threatened to resign in June when it became known that Modi would be the BJP’s chief election campaigner in the general elections. Not that Advani’s opposition was based around any notions of secularism, apart from his own PM ambitions, Advani did have his own concerns of a BJP under Modi.
Equally communal, Advani was the principle architect behind the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 that unleashed the wave of communal passions throughout many parts of India. It was Advani who nurtured Modi and backed him during the Gujarat communal riots in 2002. But despite all his communalism, Advani later became part and parcel of the Indian ruling establishment and very well knew where the buck stopped.
This was probably best reflected in Advani’s infamous ‘Jinnah is secular’ speech that he gave during a visit to Pakistan in 2005 or even his later statement on the Babri Masjid demolition itself as “the saddest day of my life”. Though the RSS never really forgave him for the Jinnah speech, it was nevertheless a very calculated move on his part that signaled an image makeover. It was probably an inevitable conclusion that Advani & co drew after a reality check that BJP would never come to power on its own based on such a sectarian ideology and coalition running requires more of bourgeois statesmanship than rabble rousing. Ultimately, it matters in the end how the big industrial houses perceives you and your politics from the point of view of investments and profits.
The same however cannot be said of Narendra Modi, who is still more of an outsider in the power politics and is yet to earn the complete trust of the Indian bourgeoisie. Although very much considered a darling of the corporate world, serious section of the Indian ruling class would think twice before handing down the reins of power to someone like Narendra Modi and that too will come with lot of riders attached.
Given Modi’s inclinations to communal politics, sectarian nationalism and his authoritarian tendencies, the stability of the Indian state would be at serious risk. Modi style parliamentary bonopartism may have worked in Gujarat for the time being, the same Modi’s Gujarat Model replicated on an India wide scale would be a disaster waiting to happen.
Internal Wrangling Within the BJP
Though not exactly the model conservative party as in the developed world, BJP is an eclectic mix of right-wing Hindu nationalism, complex web of upper casteist alliances and populism (which is characteristic of most parties in India whether on the left or the right). It is this amalgam that was stitched together by both L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (former PM) that has allowed BJP to spread its wings beyond the Hindi heartland and even put up a coalition government called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which was in power between 1998 – 2004.
While NDA under BJP could have been characterized as sectarian and pro- neoliberal, but some of the immediate RSS/ VHP demands such as construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya at the disputed Babri Masjid site, the Uniform Civil Code and abrogation of article 370 (that gave Jammu & Kashmir special status) were put on the back burner due to coalition compulsions and other external pressures. While Modi is yet to spell out his programme for a government at the centre, he is sure to harp out on some of these issues at least without which he would not have got the blessing of the RSS.
Although molded in the RSS school of bigotry, Modi has developed a cult personality around himself and his so called Gujarat Model that has attracted a section of the petty bourgeoisie and the middle classes. And it is this personality image that rankles both the RSS/ VHP and the clique around LK Advani.
Though BJP is no democratic entity, it does have its various vested interest groups and factional rivalries. What the current BJP leadership fears most is that Modi’s arrival at the scene could result in a wiping out of any faction opposed to him and BJP would end up into a monolithic entity around image of Modi. While Modi seems to have bought peace with the RSS for the time being, it remains to be seen how long this holds and could even result in a serious conflict between the two in the future.
What Modi would find very difficult to balance out, in the event of his becoming PM, would be satisfying the demands for implementing aggressive neo-liberal reforms by his corporate backers on the one hand and Hindutva demands that RSS/ VHP have pinned their hopes on. Any compromises could result in a loss of support among his backers and hardcore supporters. Moreover his neo-liberal policies are bound to irk the RSS in the long run as was seen during period of Vajpayee’s NDA govt, given its penchant for a sort of a swadeeshi (indigenous goods only) form of capitalism.
For all the hype over Modi’s candidature for Prime Minister, the chances of him actually making it through as things stands for now is really very slim given the current balance of forces that are raged against the BJP. For one, BJP does not have a pan-India presence and its strength mainly lies in the Central India belt. Beyond a few states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, BJP faces an hard uphill task and can only manage it through coalitions. And this is where BJP led NDA’s problems lie, no other party (except for two or three equally communal/ fundamentalist parties) for their own political reasons are actually willing to stick their necks out with Modi as their PM candidate. Of course, this might change if the BJP were to bag a magical figure beyond 200 seats in the general election, but as things stand for the present it does not look that certain.
Secondly, Modi faces a barrage of cases raged against him pertaining to his role during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat and the extra judicial killings of political opponents and make-believe terrorists during his tenure. While Modi will definitely not come lying down and will fight it out by any means necessary, but if the law does close in on him BJP will be hard put to support his PM candidature.
Thirdly, any attempt at large scale communalisation of politics as in the early 90’s could end up having a completely opposite effect for the BJP with loss of votes, political marginalization and will not have the backing from the major corporations as of now. The latest Muzaffarnagar communal violence in the political badlands of Western Uttar Pradesh and the noises being made about Ayodhya may have been a conscious attempt by the BJP to please its Hindutva backers, but any attempt at replicating it as an elections campaign will have a disastrous effect for the BJP politically.
Fourthly, a defeat of Modi after the elections could once again re-ignite the factional wars within the BJP and even spell disaster for the BJP. Thus BJP is risking a high stake gamble by projecting Narendra Modi as its PM candidate.
But where Modi has pinned his hopes on is the extreme unpopularity of the Congress led UPA government. Congress today presents an image of corruption scandals, unpopular economic policies and a non functioning government that, except for few paltry welfare measures, appears more or less tone deaf to the extreme barbaric living conditions of the vast Indian majority. This has only made Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s UPA govt. one of the most unpopular governments ever. With the chosen heir of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty – Rahul Gandhi extremely unwilling (for good reasons though!) to take on any responsibilities to lead the Congress as its PM candidate in the coming general elections, the prospects for the Congress does not look certain.
However, this does not automatically translate as votes for the BJP or Modi. There are various other parties that can easily cash in on Congress’s unpopularity. While a third front govt (with or without being led by the so called left parties) is no starter to begin with, in the event of the Congress not gaining the required number of votes, some sort of a coalition govt. would be stitched up with the Congress or Congress as an outsider supporter as in the past. The market forces will put enormous pressure on all the parties to see to it that there is some sort of a government and little room for instability as it does not bode well for these profit racketeers.
However, all said and done even if the BJP led by Modi is defeated in the next general elections, the stability of whatever government that emerges is far from certain. Given the global economic crisis that is already starting to hit India hard, the right wing forces are bound to kickback with another bout of communal frenzy as a check against any rise in the movement of the Indian working class.
Given the absence of a genuine Socialist Alternative and the CPI(M) led left front once again surely to disappoint the Indian working people, the dangers of a right wing, communal govt led by the Hindutva brigade is ever present. In the event of a complete collapse in governance and raging instability, the Indian bourgeoisie may not mind switching over to a right wing, communal govt. with all its monstrous features as a desperate attempt to salvage whatever is left. Such a scenario, apocalyptic as it might seem, is not inevitable though.
The rise of mass movements worldwide from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement, the fightback against austerity measures by the European working class, and not to forget the 100 million + 2 day general strike here and the mass protests against the Delhi gang rape are all signs and symptoms that the workers and the youth are beginning to move. The coming period will see more such movements, splits within the old left guard, presenting ideal opportunities for the forces of genuine socialism to intervene in these struggles and give a way forward to these movements.
At the same time, it would be extremely pertinent on the part of the forces of genuine socialism and Marxism to set up defense committees involving trade unions, community organisations, minorities, working people, Dalits and other progressive organizations to protect minorities/ oppressed sections from attacks and fight against the menace of communalism and fundamentalism. Only working class unity and a formation of a new mass working class party based on the rock solid foundation of democratic socialism can take on the eternal conspiracies that are being hatched by both the Congress and the Hindutva gang against the Indian working people.